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General News    H4'ed 8/14/18

The Coming Tsunami of Long Term Care Patients

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I know many of you reading this will have dealt with the specter of long term care with parents and other loved ones as they get into their golden years. Even worse maybe you have had a child or younger relative severely injured in an accident or incapacitated by an overdose. Perhaps that younger person needed extended long term care to maintain their health and life.

When family and friends need long term care it creates a serious financial and familial strain on all those involved. This will only worsen as a huge part of the country enters their retirement and golden years. From bankrupting seniors needing long term care to the physical, mental, and family strain put on loved ones long term care is a huge problem.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services by 2030 the age group of Americans 65 years old and older will reach over 71 million people. That figure represents a doubling of that age bracket from today's number. Anytime something doubles in just 12 years it creates many challenges.

In the past Long term care wasn't as big of a problem because most people never lived to extended ages where typically long term care becomes prominent. People are living longer and with the advancement in medicine and knowledge about how diet and outside forces affect our life span that life span figure will probably continue to get higher.

In years past when people did need long term care their family was more likely to have the patient live in one of their homes or move in with the patient. That was at a time when adult children were much more likely to stay local and develop their own families in close proximity to their parents. Also in years past many more women chose to stay home and raise families' full time and did not decide to enter the workforce outside the home.

In the modern age, with a global economy, many more adult children are leaving their childhood homes and moving hours away from their parents. As we all know million of women have joined the workforce outside the home. These two factors mean that yesterday's caregivers just might not be close enough to help their parents or have the time and patience necessary to be a good caregiver.

Over the last 20 years we have seen a large increase in assisted living facilities and older style "nursing homes" to accommodate the explosion of baby boomers who are now coming of age where many millions of them will need these kinds of facilities. Over the next 20 years that number will explode to handle the need of long term care patients.

What exactly defines long term care? It is generally accepted that if a patient can't perform 2 off the basic 6 functions of life they will need long term care. These are commonly known as ADL's (activities for daily living) which consist of eating, bathing, getting dressed, toileting, transferring, and continence. If a patient can't do 2 or more of these functions they need long term care at least for a period of time.

Costs for long term care facilities will of course change based on geography, but right now care in a private room nationwide costs about $7,000 per month and $5,500 per month for a semi private room. The average stay for a man in long term care is 2.8 years and for a woman it is 3.7 years. Doing a little math you quickly realize that an extended stay in a long term care (LTC) facility can run into many hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It must be remembered that these are just average and to arrive at those averages there are many people who never need long term care and there are many people who live far longer than then the above averages. One of the biggest reason to live past those numbers and need long term care is Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.

According to government statistics from 2000 to 2015 diagnosed cases of Alzheimer's disease has skyrocketed by 123%! The average length of a life of a patient with Alzheimer's is over 8 years. Many of those years will be spent in long term care. The average cost of long term care for 8 years is over $768,000 in today's dollars.

One of the ways people have tried to overcome these massive costs was to purchase a traditional long term care insurance policy. These policies differ in exact coverage but in essence the insured (generally a married couple) pay an annual premium that would provide them a certain monthly benefit to be paid out if the insured needs long term care. The monthly benefit and length of time for coverage is in direct relationship to the premium put into the policy and number of people covered under the policy.

As an example a 60 year old couple might pay $4,000 per year for coverage providing $6,000 per month to each of them for up to 3 years for long term care. If they need long term care past the coverage period, the insured now becomes responsible for the entire cost of continued long term care. If they never use the policy all premiums are lost inside the policy and are property of the insurance carrier. (End of Part 1)

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